Friday, October 23, 2009


A woman turns up at the hospital ER with her seven year-old son who has suffered a head injury. She was told by a Telehealth operator to take the boy to the hospital, despite the fact that they are in Canada from Mexico seeking refugee status and had an expired health coverage certificate (a new one was in the works from Ottawa). Trouble is, the ER clerk refused to let the boy be seen without payment up front, to the tune of $650. The woman ended up plodding through the rain to a walk-in clinic with her boy and his two brothers. When Brenda Aurajo-Morales’ story came to the attention of the Toronto Star, Humber River Regional Hospital suddenly had a major issue management problem on its hands. But through swift and decisive action, coupled with strong communications right from the top, what was still a less-than-stellar story for the hospital suddenly had a new lead. “Clerk fired after boy, 7, sent from ER” was the headline. "This is a one-time incident and does not represent Humber River as an organization," CEO Reuben Devlin told the Star, calling the incident “disturbing.” “We serve one of the most diverse communities. It's reflected among our staff and we see it as our strength. We do not accept this. This is not part of our value,” Devlin said. That’s pretty unequivocal, and exactly the kind of value statement the CEO needed to be making under the circumstances. I’m not saying firing someone anytime there’s a problem is a magic solution – every issues management situation is different – but the fact that the hospital’s quick action and on-message reaction was so clear meant that this story was reduced to a black eye rather than a critical body blow for the organization.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You must know of course that there are many sides to this complex incident. This is an unfortunate case, make no mistake, and I feel for a mother who is seeking care for her child. But to have fired this employee without a proper investigation and without going through the proper channels (and I guarantee that a proper investigation was NOT done and HR was not even involved; this came from the top)? This employee is represented by a union which has already taken steps to rectify this disgusting display of swift retaliation to a negatively-slanted news story. The CEO obviously saw no other way to clear not only the hospital's reputation but his own. Nobody truly knows exactly what occurred between the boy's mother and the registration clerk, but when people read inflammatory articles such as the one that appeared in the Star, it seems everyone takes what was reported as face value.

Any registration clerk that works at Humber knows you simply do not a) refuse to register a patient or b) refuse medical treatment.

In any case, whatever really did happen, this employee should NOT have been sacrificed to the media altar. There are myriad other options, including suspension w/o pay, letters of warning and education. This was much too drastic and people should know that the employee's union reps will stop at nothing to make this right.